America's War on the Poor
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 A fiery indictment of various American social and economic policies that contrive to keep single women and their children in poverty. Sociologist Sidel (Hunter College; Battling Bias, 1994) contends in a sequel to her study Women and Children Last (published ten years ago) that the US has instituted and perpetuated a policy of scapegoating poor single women as a diversion from confronting its real problems. Rather than ``blaming poor female-headed families for their own problems and for many of the problems of American society,'' Sidel insists that we need to examine the social and economic structures that have led to these problems. Inadequate women's wages, a lack of adequate child care and health care, insufficient affordable housing, and declining economic opportunities for men are just some of the culprits. In a society where one half of one percent of the population controls nearly one-third of household wealth, it is grossly unfair, maintains Sidel, to stigmatize one group by suggesting that if only ``welfare recipients would lift a finger to work'' their families could be lifted out of poverty and degradation. Sidel is most effective in eliciting sympathy for the children of poor single mothers. Poignant first-person accounts from children living in shelters and from teachers who work with these youngsters provide a perturbing portrait of the ``walking wounded,'' who too often end up enmeshed in a callous foster care system or costly juvenile justice program. Sidel, though largely convincing, somewhat dilutes her thesis by comparing America's current ``retreat from caring'' to the Nazi mistreatment of Jews in Europe. Also disturbing is her unwillingness to place any onus on single females who continue to give birth to children whom they can't afford to raise. Nevertheless, replete with statistics and first-hand accounts, this study raises issues that must be addressed. (Author tour)

Pub Date: May 14th, 1996
ISBN: 0-14-024663-0
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Penguin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1996